A community group that has in the past staged protests at letting agents’ offices in Bristol has now organised a petition against agents’ fees in Reading.
Acorn - a loose federation of activists in a handful of cities across Britain - made the news last year with a series of protests over agents’ fees and the quality of private rented housing in Bristol.
Its latest move has been to protest against fees in Reading. On its website Acorn claims some tenants in the Berkshire town have been waiting over a year for repairs to their privately rented properties, and have been put on ‘rolling contracts’ “meaning you’re never more than two months away from having to move house.” Some tenants also claim letting agents’ fees are in some cases over £300 in addition to deposits and advance rental payments.
Meanwhile in Bristol the Acorn group behind last year’s protests are now campaigning against the auction of former council homes.
“There is a lot of anger out there. Private rents and the number of people on the housing waiting list are rising. Tent villages of homeless people are springing up. This sell-off is a slap in the face in that context” an Acorn spokesman has told The Guardian newspaper.
Acorn in the city has been pivotal to getting the local authority to adopt a so-called 'ethical lettings charter' with Gold, Silver and Bronze status awarded to letting agents.
To reach Bronze status agents have to agree to use “recurring ASTs as default in place of periodic tenancies (except where the tenant request a periodic tenancy)” and conduct repairs according to legal requirements. No more than six weeks’ deposits will be taken and tenancy deposit schemes will be used and mandatory national and/or local authority health and safety inspections, paperwork and licensing will be respected.
To win Silver status the letting agent must commit to promoting the benefits of longer ASTs of 12 months or longer and commit to a six month trial period during which tenancy fees will not be charged. Acorn also wants a minimum EPC rating of E to be encouraged by letting agents.
Finally the Gold status involves a specific requirement: “To ensure the security of each tenant in the event that a property is shared by people unknown to each other, we will encourage landlord client to provide each household with an individual AST to avoid responsibility for an entire property falling on the shoulders of a single person.”